Reflections On An Important Decision

Somehow, when the notion going to Poland came up, I jumped at the chance; and then I wondered why. For a while I thought it was just for the adventure of it all and that made me feel guilty and a little ashamed. But over time I’ve come to realize that there is a lot more to my reaction.

Looking back to when the war began, I remember thinking that if I was in the same situation as the Ukrainian people, I would not hesitate to pick up a gun to defend my country and possible use it to kill people! The willingness of the Ukrainian people to immediately arm themselves for the fight, made me think back to my father and his generation who knew they had to fight to preserve democracy around the world even while there was no imminent risk to our country. These days, the moniker “The Greatest Generation” still seems deserved.

I also thought of my own heritage. My father told me his parents came from Russia between 1903 and 1906. Back then, Ukraine did not exist on maps. But my father told me that his grandfather was the governor of Kiev. I have never seen anything that would confirm this., but in looking through documents on Ancestry, I am certain that both my grandmother and grandfather emigrated from Ukraine. I also now realize that they left because of the pogroms. As an historical note, the pogroms were the result of Czar Nicolas II looking to put the blame for his own failings on someone else. And Jews were an easy target. Without any evidence, people, believed him and so began the killing. So, it is comforting to know that President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.

The final reason for going became clear after we signed up to volunteer with World Central Kitchen. In reading about the organization, I came to realize that the needs of these displaced people are profound. As I began to read more, I found stories from people who had gone to Poland to help and discovered just how desperate the situation is and the how great a burden it is for the wonderful people of Poland who have all rallied to help. Yet even with all the volunteers from other places, they need more help. Many who have returned want to go back again now that they know how great the need and how important the work.

Yesterday, José Andrés (founder of World Central Kitchen) was a virtual guest at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. He talked about all the places he has gone to help. He told us that he does not go in with a plan to solve the problem. He goes to learn, share his own experiences, and to help in whatever way he can. The people who live there understand their country and how to approach problems. The thing they need most is for people to listen and to help. This is what I hope to do when I am Poland.